Following a not so brief hiatus from blogging, forced in part by technical difficulties, I return today with a story that has generated several headlines over the past several weeks.
While the United States has largely focused on trials of Casey Anthony and Roger Clemens, one significant international legal drama has received far less attention.
Tomorrow, Thursday, July 7, 2011, Texas is scheduled to execute Humberto Leal Garcia, Jr. for the rape and murder of a sixteen year old Texas girl.
Human rights activists, international law experts, the United Nations, the United States Department of State, and others are petitioning for a stay of Garcia’s execution because Texas did not provide Garcia with protections guaranteed under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
Garcia is a Mexican citizen, and because both Mexico and the United States are signatories to the Vienna Convention, Garcia is afforded certain rights under the Treaty. Under Article 36 (reproduced below), Garcia should have been notified (but was not notified) of his right to contact the Mexican Consulate, which could have provided legal aid and assistance in his defense.
Despite calls for a stay of execution, Texas Governor Rick Perry has signaled that he will not halt the execution, and the Obama administration has filed a brief supporting a stay with the US Supreme Court.
It may be unlikely that Garcia’s trial would have had a different outcome had he obtained access to the Mexican Consulate’s services; however, allowing an execution to occur when the defendant’s rights under international treaty law were not properly afforded is a serious infraction of international law. The US Supreme court has until tomorrow to intervene in the case.
More info concerning the facts of this case and opinion can be found in the following easily digestible articles:
Texas Is Pressed to Spare Mexican Citizen on Death Row, by Adam Liptak, New York Times.
In Texas, a Death Penalty Showdown With International Law, by Nicole Allan, The Atlantic.
Supreme Court to Decide on Mexican’s Execution, by Reid J. Epstein, Politico.
COMMUNICATION AND CONTACT WITH NATIONALS OF THE SENDING STATE
1. With a view to facilitating the exercise of consular functions relating to nationals of the sending State :
(a) consular officers shall be free to communicate with nationals of the sending State and to have access to them. Nationals of the sending State shall have the same freedom with respect to communication with and access to consular officers of the sending State;
(b) if he so requests, the competent authorities of the receiving State shall, without delay, inform the consular post of the sending State if, within its consular district, a national of that State is arrested or committed to prison or to custody pending trial or is detained in any other manner. Any communication addressed to the consular post by the person arrested, in prison, custody or detention shall also be forwarded by the said authorities without delay. The said authorities shall inform the person concerned without delay of his rights under this sub-paragraph;
(c) consular officers shall have the right to visit a national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention, to converse and correspond with him and to arrange for his legal representation. They shall also have the right to visit any national of the sending State who is in prison, custody or detention in their district in pursuance of a judgment. Nevertheless, consular officers shall refrain from taking action on behalf of a national who is in prison, custody or detention if he expressly opposes such action.
2. The right referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be exercised in conformity with the laws and regulations of the receiving State, subject to the proviso, however, that the said laws and regulations must enable full effect to be given to the purposes for which the rights accorded under this Article are intended.